Gon Freecss: The Twisted Morality of Children

The Hunter X Hunter manga is finally coming back! Joyous day, oh joyous day! We have to celebrate!

Gon is one of the most unique protagonists in shounen anime or manga. Like the rest of HxH, he’s deceptive. He seems like a perfectly ordinary shounen hero; a tiny green Goku clone among thousands of Goku clones. But anyone who has seen the show or read the manga will know that that couldn’t be further from the truth.

His character arc is unlike other heroes in just about every way. It isn’t about him learning the power of friendship or gaining self-confidence. Rather, it’s the story of a boy growing into a man and learning about all the wonders of the world.

By wonders, I mean horrors. Gon sees some pretty horrific stuff. And he doesn’t just shrug it off. It deeply affects the boy. Usually for the worst.

Unlike other anime protagonists his age, Gon actually sees the world the way a child does. The idea of moral ambiguity flies straight over his head. He views good as good and bad as bad. Problem is, his idea of ‘good’ boils down to what he likes and ‘bad’ is what he disagrees with.

Most children grow out of this as they get older. They learn that the concepts of good and evil are a lot more vague than they had thought. But most children can’t crush people’s bones with their bare hands and don’t play rock-paper-scissors like it’s Mortal Kombat.

We got our first taste of this during the Phantom Troupe arc. When confronting the Troupe, Gon calls them out for grieving Uvo when they themselves have murdered countless people. While Gon isn’t making a bad point, he isn’t making it for the right reasons. He only thinks that way about the Troupe because one of his closest friends, Kurapika, has suffered at their hands. Not to mention that Gon himself has done similar things up to that point to others, albeit not nearly as horrible.

This same hypocrisy carries over into Greed Island. Here, he meets a serial murderer who is forced to help Gon and Killua train. Despite being guilty of the same crimes as the Troupe, Gon ultimately thanks him in the end, treating him as he would a friend. Gon completely ignores the fact that the man has murdered people in the past – and would have killed Gon and Killua as well, if he could have – because he acted to help him.

Want a more obvious example? Just look at Hisoka. The murderous magician hasn’t been subtle with his wants and his goals. Gon knows that he’s a violent psychopath. But Hisoka’s presence has helped Gon become a better Hunter time and time again, and Hisoka has taken the time to help him on several occasions. So even he gets a pass in Gon’s book.

Up to this point, Gon is an innocent child with some messed up ideas. But when we get to the Chimera Ant arc, things start to get problematic. In this arc, Gon’s understanding of morality is challenged. Does Gon take this experience and learn from it, growing and becoming a more mature person?

Nope! He doubles, triples, and quadruples down!

Avoiding Chimera Ant spoilers: one of the villains does a very bad thing to someone Gon is very close with. When Gon confronts her, he expects to find a heartless monster. Instead, she begs him for mercy and asks for time so that she can save someone else who got hurt. Gon, having lost someone he loves at this creature’s hand, is angry and confused. But he keeps his cool – more or less- in the hope that his friend can be healed.

When he finds out that isn’t the case, Gon does what any kid his age would do: he throws a tantrum. He starts smashing everything around him, consequences be damned. But again: most kids aren’t shounen anime protagonists.

Unfortunately, we don’t spend much time with Gon after this event in the anime. The consequences of it keep him out of the picture until near the end of the show. From what we see there, it’s difficult to determine whether or not Gon learned a lesson from that. But given that the manga is still going, I’m gonna hedge my bets on no; his arc is still going places.

Lucky for us, it’s coming back, so we’ll finally get to find out just where those places are!

Gon is one of my favorite shounen protagonists. He manages to hit all the tropes I like about such characters will subverting just enough of them to become truly interesting and memorable. I can’t wait to see how his character develops in the future.

How long do you think until he inevitably smashes in Hisoka’s skull?

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